Slavery exists. I’m not just referring to the long standing effects of race-based slavery. I’m talking about vulnerable people forced to serve against their will. Today. I was super surprised to find out how many people are unaware of this reality. Nic and were discussing modern day slavery and everyone in the room was like, “What do you mean?” I think their brains were still picturing villagers kidnapped from Africa to pick cotton.
Sadly, that isn’t far from the truth. Sometimes, it does begin with a kidnapping. But there are even more devasting ways to end up in slavery.
Let’s take Haiti, for example. Sometimes a parent feels that they can no longer feed and care for their child. Often, Voodoo priests will con them out of money in order to “heal” their child of symptoms actually caused by malnutrition and secondary illnesses. In any case, there is a traditional position called a restavec. The parent(s) will bring their child to a family member to be “cared” for.
Maybe when the tradition began, the child helped around the house in exchange for food and board. Today, these children generally sleep outside or under a table. They are not allowed to eat until they have finished their chores, often until everyone else in the house is back in bed for the evening. Unfortunately, these marginalized youth are also often abused in many forms. Either way, they are unheard slave children.
Then there is Southeast Asia. A struggling parent, grandparent or other family member can get desperate. When there is not enough to go around, there are “opportunities” waiting. Imagine if it was your child. If you were gone and your sister or aunt was barely making it. All of a sudden a man comes and tells you he’ll give her several thousand dollars to get back on her feet and he’ll take your child and bring her to school, or trade school or get her work sewing clothes. But that’s not what happens. She’s been sold as a sex slave.
Slavery is an enormous international business. Selling humans. It’s heartbreaking and despicable. Can you imagine the torment of knowing that your loved one (knowingly or unknowingly) let you end up there?
I’d hate to leave you in all gloom. And while the reality remains a little discouraging, there is hope. People are fighting this battle for the precious, defenseless lives of every color in slavery. Here’s what’s going on:
- Awareness! I remember the first time I heard the stark statistics about human trafficking, not excluding a semi-local trafficking ring in my “safe” corner of America. At minimum, do some reading at the links below. You could see if there are any local organizations (usually safe houses) that you could get involved with. I also highly suggest supporting an international non-profit such as Remember Nhu.
- Support: There are people doing some amazing things, even using some of their favorite activities, to fight against human-trafficking. You can ask around and search for organizatios in your area; they would have all the deets on the local situatin. Below there are links to a couple of groups that I love. You can give, pray or just write an e-mail or letter (Gasp! Yes, on real paper!) to thank and encourage the hard-working souls taking a stand.
- Action: Remember Nhu is my very favorite for two reasons. First off they aim to find at risk children and intervene before they are enslaved. Can you say ROCK STARS?! Second, because there is a couple who loved me through those not-so-lovable teenage years and did their best to make me a better person. They are in the trenches, seeking out those vulnerable families and helping their children get a safe home, education, tools and hope for their future. Boom. Love them.
The Fly Fishing Collaborative: This group sells guided fishing trips and fly fishing gear/accessories. The proceeds then go toward building aquaponics farms so that young people have somewhere to work besides the sex trade. Fly fishing. Farming. Freedom. You’d better bet we were all over this one. Nic was like how do I become a part of this?! Like right. now.
Don’t end here, have hope:
Can I tell you what I don’t want to happen right now? I don’t want you to worry. It is so easy, especially once you start reading the cold hard facts about slavery in our modern world, to get anxious. Yes, it’s devastating. Yes, it’s heart-breaking. And yes, it is happening in your area. But a wise man once said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Your stress won’t help accomplish freedom. But your brave, sober-minded support will. If you’ve just become aware of the situation, than just be aware. Know how you feel (bravely, remember?) about it and stand strong.
Maybe moral support or action is where you’re at today. You could take out a paper and pen. Or seriously, a guiding fly fishing trip on some of the most beautiful waters in North America? These guys don’t exactly make it torture to do our part!
No matter what, please don’t forget the individuals. Try hard not to lump everyone if slavery into a sad species unfamiliar to you. Look at the faces of the young people around you, from the toddler at the playground to the awkward teenager at the store. Look at the children in your life and remember that “slaves” are hurting individuals just like them.
I would encourage you to set a calendar event for 6 months or 1 year from now. Glance back at this post and ask yourself, “Am I ready to do something more?” I know this isn’t everyone’s passion, but we can support those whose it is.
I thought it would be fitting to end with this quote from the man with a dream of freedom himself:
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. – Martin Luther King